"Why do our children have to die in tragic circumstances. Why do they have their lives taken, and this government does jack sh*t for our children?" asked one mother, Zaida Samuels. Picture: Armand Hough/African News Agency
Cape Town - Moms Move for Justice (MMJ), a group that advocates for an end to gang violence in Cape Town, marched to Parliament on Thursday to demand that the government listen to their concerns.

MMJ was started in 2015 by Avril Andrews as a resource for mothers grieving over the loss of children to gang violence.

Andrews says she sought women who could understand her own experience of losing a son to gang violence.

She says the grief of loss is usually compounded by a feeling that nothing was being done about the murders.

Murder is a growing problem in the Western Cape, especially in the Cape Flats where Andrews is from.

There were 46 reported murders in the province this past weekend. SAPS was also working with a deficit of detectives, leaving a backlog of cases.

Andrews attributes the degree of violent crime to generational anger. She sees violence escalate as children are exposed to their fathers’ frustrations and problems. Often young men who find themselves in gangs are looking for a sense of belonging or safety.

The experience of coping with these murders can be extremely lonely, according to Andrews. After her son’s death, she expected the community to come together to support her, as they would any neighbour who lost a family member. Instead she was met with fearful eyes as she walked down the street. Other members of the community were afraid to be associated with her lest they upset the perpetrators of her son’s murder.

But creating a support group with other mothers who faced similar circumstances was extremely healing for Andrews. The moms would get together to voice their frustrations and even engage in dance therapy as a form of cathartic healing. Since 2015, other support groups have been established in Nyanga, Mitchells Plain and Atlantis. The groups provide a safe space for the women to heal.

Wednesday’s march began at the Castle of Good Hope and ended at Parliament.

One of the women who participated in the march Zaida Samuels talked about the loss of her daughter and how her pain is one shared by many other mothers on the Cape Flats.

"I've always asked myself, I wonder if those parents ever repair, I wonder what they feel, I wonder if they ever laugh again, or ever smile again. And so God has challenged me on the 28th of April this year, and my daughter passed on in a very tragic way.

"On Sunday past, it was a 100 days, and so I now know what it's like to feel what those mothers feel - the pain, the hurt, the brokenness that this world will never understand unless you've lost a child," Samuels cried.

"I know life is not fair, but why do our children have to die in tragic circumstances. Why do they have their lives taken, and this government does jack sh*t for our children? Why do we have to resort to this?"

Zaida Samuels talks about the loss of her daughter during a protest against the killing of women and children at the building of parliament in Cape Town. Video: Armand Hough/African News Agency

MMJ hopes the march will encourage lawmakers to take a stronger stance against gang violence.

They have asked that ministers who don’t understand the level of violence occurring due to gangs be removed and replaced.

Additionally, they want to see firearms confiscated from illegal owners.

The organisation has previously met with SAPS to work on improving police presence in the community.

The mothers demand that police take their cases seriously and engage more with the families of victims to keep them abreast of investigations.

Andrews says that while changes are not always obvious, there is progress being made.

She hopes the group will bring awareness to the issue and will wake people up from complacency.

“This is not normal. Children should not be dying,” she says.


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Cape Argus